(N64 / Nintendo 64)

Mario Kart 64 (N64 / Nintendo 64)

Game Review

Mario Kart 64 Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Corbie Dillard

Mario Kart gets a 64-bit upgrade!

To say that the original Super Mario Kart was a huge hit for the Super Nintendo console would be a mammoth understatement. The game caught gamers by storm and kicked off a series that's still producing new titles some 17 years later. So when Nintendo released their Nintendo 64 console, gamers knew that it was only a matter of time before Nintendo would bring a new Mario Kart title to their polygon processing beast. Mario Kart 64 took all of the great game play ideas of the original and built a much more realistic and deeper game play experience to form a game that many Mario Kart fans consider the best the series has to offer. So how does the game hold up on the Wii Virtual Console nearly a decade later?

The basic game play design of Mario Kart 64 remains quite similar to that of the original Super Nintendo release. You still get to choose from a host of Super Mario characters and race each other around the game's many tracks. You'll get to choose from four different Cups, each with its own four unique racetracks to tackle. You can also select from three different engine sizes that vary the difficulty of the game.

The main mode of the game is Mario GP Mode. In this mode up to two players can race against each other and the six other racers in an all out Grand Prix series. Of course in 2-player mode, the screen is split in two as to give both racers the same perspective. You basically choose between one of the four Cups to race in and then take on the four tracks in an attempt to ultimately win first place and the Gold Cup Trophy.

If you'd rather leave out the other racers and just take on some friends, you can select the game's VS. Mode. This allows up to four players to race an individual track together. While the 2-player mode is once again split in two, if you choose to race three or four players, the screen is then split into four sections. This can be a bit tricky to try to focus on your small section of screen real estate, but it's ultimately the only way to give all four players the same perspective while racing.

The final two modes are the Time Trial and Battle Mode. Fans of the original should know what to expect with these two modes, as they remain basically the same as those found in the original Super Nintendo release. In Time Trial Mode you can choose your player and then race any of the available tracks in an attempt to score a good time. You can even race against your ghost in an attempt to beat your own last run around the track. But unlike the Nintendo 64 release, there is no controller pak support, so you can't save your ghost data or view a replay in this Virtual Console release. The Battle Mode is once again where your kart is covered with three balloons and you drive around one of the game's four available battle tracks trying to pop your opponent's balloons using the various power ups available around each track. The last player with a balloon left wins. It's pretty much the same as the battle mode in the Super Nintendo release and every bit as much fun.

Mario Kart 64 does bring a few new game play twists to the table and they ultimately do a good job of adding in some additional game play depth to the overall experience. This time around you can perform a slide using the "R" button. Using this slide is important because it allows you to take sharp turns without losing much speed. You can even perform an advanced move called the "Mini Turbo" that will allow you to wiggle the analog stick back and forth during a slide, which will turn your kart's smoke trail yellow and then red allowing you to release the "R" button and get a mini turbo boost out of the turn. It takes a good while to master this move, but if you want to beat the more difficult engine classes, you'll need to put in the time to master it.

As playable as the original Super Mario Kart release was, Mario Kart 64 just adds so much more game play depth that it's difficult not to fall in love with it. Couple the new game play features with some absolutely outstanding race tracks and you have what is easily one of the best Mario Kart experiences money can buy. The game just feels like it was the perfect fit for the Nintendo 64 console and it's just as much fun today on the Virtual Console as it ever was.

The visuals in Mario Kart 64 are obviously quite a bit more advanced than those of the 16-bit Super Nintendo release. This time around the tracks don't have to rely on fancy Mode 7 scaling and rotation to simulate the 3-D effects of racing around a track, instead they are drawn out with the polygon pushing power of the Nintendo 64. All of the various tracks have their own unique themes and each one has its own distinct layout and feel to it. The game is a huge step up from the rather basic look and feel of the original and puts the Nintendo 64's processing power to good use.

As if the visual upgrade wasn't enough, Nintendo still found time to give the musical score a fresh remix and added in a ton of brand new tunes in the process. Now there are still plenty of the original tunes for those looking for a little bit of a nostalgia factor, but the new tunes are every bit as catchy and do a solid job of carrying the theme and mood of each racetrack. Even the character voices are a nice touch to the overall audio experience.


As great as the original Super Mario Kart release was, Nintendo really managed to outdo it in just about every facet imaginable. The game play is deeper, the visuals are more detailed, and the musical score is as catchy as ever. If you've ever wondered why so many game fans hold Mario Kart 64 as the best of the series, you only need take the game for a spin on the Virtual Console to see what all the fuss is truly about. It's easily one of the best Nintendo 64 releases of them all and an absolute must-have for any Mario Kart fan.

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User Comments (24)



Roo said:

One of the N64 greats. My first N64 game too. Tough choice between this and ISS 64, but this was my pick. That said, ultimately Mario Kart 64 is a flawed genius. The computer are cheaters, the battle arenas are too big and complex, and they could have made it more Mario-y. But still, you've gotta have it!



Nintendork said:

Okay, after about a month of playing MKWii and keeping this on the SD card, I tried it again. It's still as slow and slippery as ever, but thre's 1 thing I absolutely love now. The item balance. It's perfect! It felt so great to race without getting bombed by a blur shell 1 cm from the finish line.



Corbs said:

While I consider this a deeper game, I still like the simple fun of the original Super Nintendo release. Maybe I'm just a nostalgic fool at heart.



Metang said:

This game has aged very poorly.

I remember getting this game about 9 years ago. I just loved it to death. I remember bringing my friends over repeatedly, just so we could all play this game. I remember when I had to hang on to the TV when my parents tried to throw me outside. About one year later I lost the cart.

Now, eight years later (I dropped my points on this about a year ago) I bought Mario Kart 64 for my Wii. When I first played it, I was expecting a big nostalgic flood, and I was expecting to play this game over ad over again. It didn't happen.

I agree with Nintendork. The game has aged very poorly, it is very slow and slippery (though not as slippery as MK:DD), but the item balance is excellent. Wide tracks were another disappointment-when I got way ahead of the other players, the track suddenly felt very empty and the game suddenly felt even more sluggish.



Mama_Luigi said:

I think this game deserves 7/10 or 6/10 to be honest...
But thats just my opinion, maybe i said that because it was a long time since i played it but remember it being decent. Ah well!



WoRMaSTeR said:

This game, while being slow hits exactly what mario kart is about: multiplayer. The item balance is just right and the battle mode is the best here. Mario Kart Wii isn't better in any aspect and it totally manages to take the fun out with unbalanced items and unbalanced bike vs. kart so this remains the supreme Mario Kart for me anyways.



Porky said:

I expected alot of comments for mario kart 64. I absolutly love this better then super mario kart.



SuperMarioFan1995 said:

This is the worst one in the Mario Kart series.

And why a 9/10? I think it deserves a 7/10 at least. The drifting was the one that ruined the whole thing for me. I end up crashing in the wall when I turn left or right. I also think it felt a bit too repetitive (maybe the Grand Prix cups). And the two courses, Wario Stadium and Rainbow Road, has got to be the two longest courses in any Mario Kart game! It took me about 5, 6 or 8 minutes. This has aged really badly.

Great review, Corbie. It still is a good game. But deserves a 7/10.



David77 said:

Well, some people seem to don't like it. For me, the best for single player is the first, and the best for multi-player is this one. They aged very well in their respective field. This serie is among my very best ever.



SeniorDingDong said:

I think, this is the best Mario Kart version. If you ask me, it ´s beyond aging and still very fun to play on the VC.



YoshiSage said:

Metang and SuperMarioFan1995 make good points. This game has indeed aged terribly. It's unbelievably slow, the drifting sucks, the battle mode is very threadbare, and the graphics are uglier than the rear end of a dog with a rash. The way this game moves feels so incredibly broken, and only adds to the game's ugliness as the roads, walls, and other features noticeably warp themselves with each passing frame. The only good things to be said about this game is that some of the tracks are designed well, such as this game's rendition of Bowser's Castle, and the item balance hits the mark.



thegamer10 said:

When i got my wii and saw this on virtual console i wanted it a lot. Sure i had Mario Kart Wii but i wanted to try the classics. Now though im thinking that I shouldn't get it because it doesn't sound like it has a free racing mode. Thats something that I like a lot on any racing game. Seeing how it doesn't have this though it's still a good game just not the one im looking for.



GeminiSaint said:

This game didn't age very well. I remembered it being better than it really is. Playing it again about 10 years after its original release resulted in sour disappointment. There are very few tracks (only 16 tracks? seriously?), and 3-4 player modes bring some annoying technical limitations to the table: lack of background music, inability to play GP mode and framerate problems in a few of the tracks, which cause them to be sped up, inconsistently with the rest of the game. Specific to the VC version, there's also the lack of Ghost saving features (lazy, lazy Nintendo...). I'd give this game a 6/10.



Ultronator said:

@Corbie, I was really hoping this would be a proper review of Mario Kart 64 on the virtual console and not a copy and paste of a review of Mario Kart 64 in general. Comparing it to Super Mario Kart is nice, but ultimately not what people come here to read. I was hoping to see the VC version compared to the original N64 version. I was wondering about things like the accuracy of the emulation, how well the controls translate to Wii/Gamecube controllers, and any glitches or other notable things that occur. You guys always do such a good job with this and it seems like you really dropped the ball and got lazy with this review. So, for anyone wanting to know about the Virtual Console specific version, here's what I noticed: 1) The controls translate quite nicely and once you get used to them, I think they exceed those of the N64. The one thing I noticed about them is that it seems far easier to spin out in the 150cc mode when you make a sharp turn (moving the control stick from left to right quickly, or vice versa). 2) The music skips sometimes, but it is generally not a problem. It's almost as if the game slows down just a bit to mess up the music. 3) The biggest concern I had was that the game seems to randomly speed up and slow down depending on the level and/or number of players. Now, I seem to remember something like this happening on the original N64 version, however, it seems to be much more chaotic on the Virtual Console version. Sometimes a level will play really fast, for instance, and make it very difficult to control. I'd be interested in knowing if anyone else has this opinion.



fairybats said:

I agree with the previous comments, you drive way too slow. Since playing Double Dash, it's hard for me to come back and play this. The only thing fun about it now, really, are all the glitches and shortcuts out there to try out.



Gridatttack said:

6/10 is the max I give this game just for the multiplayer, otherwise ill give it a 3. This game is the worst of the mario kart series.
First of all, there is nothing to unlock in this game. Everything comes unlocked with all tracks. There is no point to play 1P mode otherwise to become better on a track.
Secondly, the CPU cheats way to unfair in this game. When you are in first, the CPU behind you gain a boost, so it doesnt matter how ell you race, make a little mistake and the CPU passes you.And worst of all, if the CPU gets to far in 1st, they gain another speedboost, making impossible to catch the CPU up.
Thirdly, the glitches. This game has lots of unfair glitches which lets you skip the whole track and make a lap under 10 seconds.
Lastly, some of the items are useless at its best. The red shell is badly coded and will certainly hit a wall. In some tracks, they become completely useless since the track width is short.

Only the multiplayer is what is fun about this game. Otherwise, it doesn't deserve that much praise.



HawkeyeWii said:

I want to know someone that can beat 150cc B Boardwalk....
The item balance is the best in the series, but the rubber banding AI is absurd in this game!!!!! Holy mother of....
There are courses where I race absolutely flawlessly and you still make no ground what so ever on the others. I feel like the game code was made so that the AI can only get behind you by so much and then zzzippppppp up in front of you again. No doubt the hardest MK!

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